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February 26, 2009 at 1:23 PM

Kaiten: and the sushi goes round and round — here, there, everywhere

Remember when kaiten sushi was new and exciting? Well these days, plucking sushi from a conveyor belt is booming business. By now, you’re likely familiar with companies like Japan-base Marinepolis Sushi Land and locally owned Blue C Sushi. Those two outfits are turning into the sushi-centric equivalent of Than Brothers pho houses and Toshi’s Teriyaki. Which is to say if you don’t already have one in your neighborhood, don’t blink, there’s one coming soon:

On Saturday, quick on the heels of opening another Blue C Sushi at Westfield Southcenter Mall, Blue C’s opening its fifth — and largest — restaurant in Bellevue Square. Like the original Fremont store, it will sport a mezzanine bar and lounge — only this one’s big enough to reserve for parties of up to 100. In addition, the Bellevue Blue C features two conveyor belts, so you and 19 of your closest friends can call and reserve the smaller one for a “private” party. Nice.

Sushi Land, now with five stores around the Sound, just celebrated the debut of its Lynnwood location — only minutes from the Blue C at Alderwood Mall. And Sushi Land’s Lower Queen Anne outpost, where you’ll often find me stuffing myself silly at lunchtime, now has competition from neighboring Genki Sushi, open since December.

Over in Kirkland’s Avalon Juanita Village, aa Sushi rounds things out, as it’s been doing for the past three years. As for Woodinville, Eater Dave Alverson wrote last week to turn me on to his favorite kaiten sushi joint: Sushi Connections.

Like me, Dave prefers the intimacy and artistry of a classic sushi bar to the eat-it-and-beat-it atmosphere of the kaiten restaurants where diners help themselves to the rotating rewards, and servers tally-up your small plates, dim sum-style, before presenting a bill. But Dave wrote to say he makes an exception for the year-old Sushi Connections. Here’s why:

“Just one of the things I find exemplary with this restaurant is the care and attention to Ken Tran, the owner, puts into every customer. From the minute you walk in the door you are greeted by the entire staff. The wait staff checks to see if there is anything special you want immediately so they can make sure it’s either on the belt or getting started in the kitchen. Within the first couple of minutes, Ken is introducing himself to new customers or stopping by to visit with regulars. As far as the food is concerned, there is a wide range of rolls and sushi to choose from. Johnny, the chef and Ken’s brother, is constantly developing new and exciting adaptation of old classics.

Johnny is very particular about the quality of the fish he serves. That may lead to not getting a fish you’d like to have that night, but I think of it like a pilot that refuse to fly a specific plane. If the pilot refuse to fly that plane, I don’t want to be in that plane. If Johnny won’t serve this fish, I don’t want to eat it.

Ken is not just a good restaurant host. Once you have taken a minute or so to chat with him, every visit becomes less like going out to eat and more like going to a friend’s house for dinner. What started with my wife introducing me to Sushi Connections has grown to nearly seven layers of referrals and Ken can connect the relationships between each person and who they were brought in by and who brought that person in all the way back to the original customer.

I wanted to share with you, if not your readers, one of the great hidden treasures of the north end. I’m sure you have a lot of recommendations and suggestions of where to go and who to write about but now at least I know that someone has suggested Sushi Connections to you.”

Thanks for the heads-up, Dave. Sushi Connections is news to me and I look forward to checking the place out. So, what do you say, Eaters? Anybody else been to Sushi Connections? How about aa Sushi in Kirkland? Which do you Seattleites like better — Lower Queen Anne’s Sushi Land or the new Genki? Did I miss any other kaiten restaurants? (And don’t say, “Yeah, the one in Tokyo I’ve been frequenting for the past 20 years,” or you’ll make me green with envy.) I know there are a lot of folks out there who put their noses in the air regarding kaiten-joints (hello, my dear husband! And you, too, Mr. 30 Straight Days of Sushi!), but I’m not one of them. That said: Hate the whole idea? Do tell me why!

And if you’ve already been out for a quick kaiten-sushi lunch and can’t get your mind around working, or cleaning house, or walking the dog, or whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing right now, why not brush up on your typing skills with this typing sushibar game!

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